It wasn’t all good news Sunday as the Patriots headed back to Foxborough to prepare for the archrival Jets.

Defensive captain Jerod Mayo left the 31-19 win over the Raiders with a ligament sprain in his left knee. He’s expected to miss up to six weeks.

For a struggling defense, losing Mayo obviously hurts — and it doesn’t help that the schedule only gets tougher over the coming weeks. But don’t assume nobody can pick up Mayo’s slack. The Pats say they’re prepared for anything.

“Gary [Guyton] basically replaced Jerod in the regular defense,” coach Bill Belichick said yesterday. “And we had some other guys in there in sub-defense. We had some different packages in there; it wasn’t a Ferris wheel of guys.”


Guyton has been a Patriot going on four seasons now, and he’s acclimated to the system and everything that Mayo does.

“Gary and Jerod came in together; they’re very close personally and play next to each other,” Belichick said. “They have great communication, and both guys can kind of do what the other one does. They flip assignments and positions regularly.”

Second-year man Dane Fletcher, who went undrafted out of Montana State, has drawn high praise from Belichick in the past. And Fletcher wore Mayo’s green dot on his helmet — signaling a radio link with the coaches in the huddle — during a preseason game.

“With whatever is going on [with] defense right now, everybody’s got to help as much as possible, including myself,” Fletcher said. “So whatever needs to be put on my shoulders, I will see as it’s fit.”

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